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How Localization Helped Rebuild South Africa

How Localization Helped Rebuild South Africa

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South Africa, a country torn by apartheid, has phoenixed over the last decade as a market worth exploring. In this article, we analyse how strategic localization has helped the country gain its rightful place among the world’s developing economies.

But how exactly did localization boost the country’s economy? What type of companies are interested in localizing to South Africa? Read on as we tackle these questions below.

How did localization push South Africa’s economy forward?

Digital technologies have made communication faster and more effective on a global scale, keeping us all connected. South Africa could not and did not fall behind.
Currently, thousands of South Africans enjoy seamless access to content in their native languages thanks to localization and internet services.
In his article published by IT News African media outlet, Ian Henderson, CIO and CEO of Rubric South Africa, highlighted that localization was one of the country’s critical drivers of economic growth.
Although English is the official language in South Africa, 72.4% of local consumers are more likely to complete a purchase if the product or service information is available in their native language, data collected by the Common Sense Advisory revealed.
Therefore, the demand for business translation and localization services is higher than ever, Henderson explains, as only 8.2% of the South African population speaks English as a first language. Additionally, colonial languages, such as English or Afrikaans, for example, are thought of as the arsenal of the elite.
But you don’t want to target only the very few with your digital campaigns, do you? Therefore, localization is the way forward.
Companies like Vodacom, MTN, Checkers and Nandos have already localized their websites into indigenous South African languages. Although their target remains the global market, they’ve also managed to win over an important portion of the emerging South African market by making their products and services available in the country’s local vernaculars.
But the benefits of business localization exceed the virtual boundaries of the online realm.
By opening subsidiaries in the African country, these companies have also generated jobs, which, in turn, fueled the economy, increasing its per-capita GDP, consumer confidence, etc.

Localization and language standardization

11 languages are spoken in South Africa, also recognized as official languages, including English, Afrikaans, Sepedi (Sesotho sa Leboa), Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, Xitsonga, isiNebele, isiXhosa, and isiZulu.
Many of these are still undergoing active standardization, seen as a viable solution to dim the effects of the apartheid when South Africa’s native languages suffered and many faded. Concentrating standardization and localization efforts could save the country’s cultural and linguistic heritage.

Endangered languages such as isiNebele, spoken by only 2.1% of the population (according to data from 2011), could regain their rightful place among South Africa’s languages through translation and localization.

The African Network for Localization (ANLoc) supports translation projects targeting the country. These endeavours help preserve many endangered South African languages. However, ANLoc argued that thorough quality control checks must be conducted to ensure accuracy.

To launch granular quality control procedures, the agency started working with industry stakeholders. Businesses looking to expand into South Africa should follow ANLoc’s example to ensure their translations are of the highest quality.

Remember – localization is more than just transposing your website or brochure content into another language. It means paying attention to the linguistic and cultural uniqueness of your target market.

In recent years, an increasing number of localization initiatives have emerged in rural South Africa. The Ulwazi Programme is a far-reaching localization project in the KwaZulu-Natal province. To preserve the isiZulu language and culture, the KwaZulu-Natal community members use a wiki-based platform to compile a massive digital archive of isiZulu native texts. The project enjoys great popularity amongst isiZulu speakers and also indicates the high demand for localized content in native South African languages.

But this is not the only large-scale localization project in South Africa. Individual translators and bloggers are also playing their part in africanizing the web. In his blog titled Localization and Digitization in Africa, Musa Baloyi, a Xitsonga-speaking software engineer, voices his frustration regarding the incompatibility between translation engines and his native language. He is also the author of a further-arching project – an online Xitsonga dictionary, currently under development.

So, the first steps have already been taken, placing South Africa on the path to strengthening its cultural heritage. What’s next? As a business looking to set foot in the South African market, what type of content should you localize first?

Going local? Here’s what you need to know!

With an Internet penetration of 63.1%, South Africa is also a mobile-first country. In 2021, the number of mobile internet users in South Africa hit 36.45 million, according to Statista. This number is expected to reach 43 million by 2026. Therefore, if you want to make an impact in South Africa, localize your website and mobile app(s).

Using the services of a localization agency like Pangea Global can help you achieve growth in some of the most discerning markets. Our local translators and localizers will make your app shine in 75+ languages, including Afrikaans, Sesotho, Xhosa, and Zulu. Interested?

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